Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not ready.

The term "stepmom" never really spoke the volumes to me that my stepmother, Edye has meant to me in my life. My mother and father separated when I was 2 and divorced 2 years later, because he was an alcoholic. My father married my stepmom shortly after the divorce. Opposed to what you would THINK would happen in this situation, my mom and stepmom hit it off and were never in the type of resentful, traditionally thought of ex/current wife relationship. My stepmom was kind to me, loved me and took me in as her own, and that was good enough for my mother. I'm sure my stepmom knew my mother didnt want my dad back, and she shared her child - so maybe that was enough for her. Whatever reasons were behind it, when my father married my stepmom, I gained another mother. Edye and my dad had my sister Erica, who has literally always been a HUGE part of my heart, shortly after they married. Sometime in all of this, my mom had a very traumatic experience and had a breakdown. She knew she would be unable to care for me during all of this, and Edye and my father agreed to take me in. I was in their care for over a year. My father was abusive - but my sister and stepmom were there and were my entire life at that point.I eventually went home to my mom - and saw my father and stepmom regularly.
Eventually, they divorced.
I rarely saw my father after this...and when I did, it was when he managed to sober up long enough to arrange a visit.
My stepmother and sister, on the other hand were a permanent fixture in my life. We spent summers together, back and forth between our mom's homes...and I was just so lucky to have two moms.

 Edye never, not once, treated me like I was less than her daughter. 

She went back to school and got her degree. She worked her ass off to take care of my sister. When my sister was in first grade she spent the school year with my mom and I, while Edye moved to New Jersey and secured her career and a home for them. Then, my sister went home to New Jersey with her. My stepmom was a bigwig in the human resources dept of AIG. Yes, THAT AIG. The part of my summers were spent with her were heaven. She had built an amazing career, and had plenty of money - and took my sister and I to do everything. The best thing, was she would take us into Manhattan and take us to work with her. Her secretary was our secretary. We took untold amounts of office supplies hostage and we ran the office with an iron fist. It was amazing.

When I was 17 and got pregnant I was afraid to tell her. I cannot tell you how much I admired that woman and her opinion of me was just that important to me. I have no idea to this day what she thought - because she never had an unkind, unsupportive word for me. My daughter is her grand daughter. The minute she was born, she was just as accepted, loved and as fortunate as I was to have her in my life. When her sister Kaylee came along 4 years later, it was within a couple weeks of Edye's birthday and I dont know if that's why - but they have an amazing bond. When I got married, Edye bought my cake and at the last minute decided I needed a limo, among other things. She and my sister drove from Jersey to here for literally every single birthday for 6 kids, every year. It was the highlight of our celebration.
When I left my husband for the first time, after a particularly violent fight, she drove from New Jersey within hours in a blizzard, and took me and four kids to her home. Three months later, when I went back to NH - and Mark- she didn't approve, but she didn't stop me. I always felt she knew I was going to leave, but I had to do it in my own time.She saved me in many many different ways over the next decade.The least of all being the many ways she supported me when I finally left for good seven years ago. She has been both mine and my sisters rock. Anyone who knows her, knows that she is the strongest, most independent, amazing example of single motherhood - and woman you could ask for.
About 4 years ago, my sister and brother in law bought a gorgeous farmhouse in Portland, Maine - a mere hour away from me. Three years ago next week, my sister gave birth to her second child, my gorgeous, talented, fantastic niece, Sofia. I also have an amazing nephew who is a couple months older than Jake, named Matthew. Our kids flipping ADORE each other. When my sister had Fia, Edye came to Maine to help out. She had left work because of health issues...and stayed with my sister's family. She became my niece and nephews primary caregiver. My sister, a talented and amazing registered nurse , became the school nurse to a High School close to their home.

One day two years ago, my sister came home and my stepmom was disoriented, confused and my niece was covered in poop. Upon closer inspection, depsite my stepmoms claims that the diaper was defective, my sister discovered Fia wasn't wearing one.There were "things" that happened before this - but this day was the beginning to what was to become the decline of my stepmom's health. My sister hasn't gone back to work, and has instead been home taking care of my stepmom and Sofia. Over the last two years there have been hospital stays, surgeries, medications and diagnosis. One of which is Early Dementia.
I know most people have had some sort of  "run in" with this type of illness - so because of that, and to spare my stepmom her dignity, I will not elaborate. It is suffice to say that my sister has had her hands full, and that I have had my head buried in the sand.  I am sorry for that. So very very sorry.
When Brittany was ill last year and unable to care for herself and was basically out of her mind, my sister came to the rescue repeatedly, in many different ways. From coming to get my granddaughter and my younger kids and taking them for a few days while I got Brit hospitalized against her will for ten days - to going to visit Brit a month later when she was again hospitalized but at Maine Med - every day, for two months, in my place. I was 7 months pregnant and very ill, on bed rest and my daughter was an hour away, very ill and alone.  My sister was there every single day visiting, caring for and advocating for my daughter ( in fact, my sister saved my daughters life in the hospital when SHE realized Brit had Magnesium toxicity and the nurses there chalked her inability to breathe or walk or function on "Brittany being Brittany". It wasnt pretty after that.My sister is not only a nasty bitch when necessary- but the epitomy of the phrase "mama bear") - all the while dragging my confused, sick stepmom along.
It's pretty easy to see the apple didnt fall far from the "amazing tree", right?
Things have recently, over the past year, gotten worse with my stepmom. She is diabetic and refuses to stay compliant with meds or diet. She has issues because of it. She has had infections and lots of things all dementia patients probably go through. Again, sparing my stepmoms dignity - I am just simply going to say it's been bad. Real bad.
Two weeks ago Edye needed to be hospitalized due to cellulitus in her leg. Blood sugar was up over 500. At home she was refusing to be med compliant until she was too sick to fight. By that time it was simply too late to continue at home despite being able to get meds into her. Her wound was horrible...the surrounding tissue various shade of black and blue spreading up her entire leg. Hospitalization and  IV antibiotics helped stabilize - and she was moved to rehab. Now things have again gotten worse - and this time even if the antibiotics they cant get her to take help, she would always need to be on them because of the severity of the wound and her blood sugar.
Let me back up a bit. This strong, amazing woman has always said to us that she wouldn't ever under any circumstances want to live any way but able to care for herself. In fact, it has always been a "joke" with her that should she appear to be having a heart attack or stroke, my brother in law was to chuck her own the stairs so she wouldn't be on life support-become a burden-become less than what she always was:Strong and amazing.  The joke is really on us, because Im sure you can see - she really wasn't joking.My sister has been her trusted go to person with medical directives and living will related things since she has been legally old enough. She - we all know- exactly how Edye would NOT want to live.  Cut to the last two years and we have a proud,strong woman, AMAZING woman who is now confused and constantly upset that she cant get the words from her brain to her mouth. She cant use the right names, she cant get an entire, coherant sentence out and be understood. She cant dress herself. She cant bathe herself. She has no idea whats going on at any given time. She is just simply trapped inside her own head. She has lost the things she loved most - her independence and her connection to family. Her connection to her so well loved grandkids.   She has no meaningful quality of life. Sometimes she knows all this. And it hurts so so much to watch her hurt.

Back to today.
The doctors sat my sister, the nurse...and the daughter.... down and discussed things with her and really made sure she understood that continuing with the process of treating her will prolong her life...but that she has not only expressed that she doesnt want the meds, but that her quality of life will not improve- and as we already knew, it would decline. So after much more suffering, she will eventually have the same outcome.

So, tomorrow my going to hospice. She will cease antibiotics. Her infection will increase, as will her blood sugar because diabetes is a fucking bitch. We hope to slip a pain patch on her to keep her comfortable. Due to the infection messing with the diabetes, she will eventually slip into a coma - and as my sister is holding up her end of my stepmoms bargain, she will not have any heroic measures and will have a DNR order.
My sister is doing as asked and is expected of her - and chucking her down the stairs.

 I talked to her last night, and we both knew this was coming. I've been crying and laughing with my sister about everything from Edye's beloved mink coats, things we used to do as kids, how we will pull through and  deal with my stepmoms belongings to how we really need my stepmom's secretary, John Paul to come help make the arrangements. Things no one but she and I would understand. I've been trying to decide how to include my kids in this - and have only been able to let my 17 year old know that her beloved Nan is dying and that we hope she will come say goodbye. My other kids are too little - and my oldest is just not as in her own head as she was when younger. I've been imagining what it is going to be like to see her, knowing she wont be here anymore. What it is going to be like when she's gone.
The thing that I can't shake, and what I said to my sister last night:
"Who is going to take care of us??"
But she hasn't been able to take care of us for a couple of years now. It makes no sense, but is the thing my hurting heart keeps saying.

I don't know how to do this. I don't want to do this. I am just not ready.I don't know how to be strong for my sister. I dont want to let her down.
I've never felt so much pain, but been so entirely numb at the same time.

There's stuff I need her to know

I want her chicken cutlets and spaghetti. Or roast. Or chicken soup. Or the peanut butter toast cut into strips for little hands. Or the dark gingerale for sick tummies.
Does she know that one of Brits favorite things to do was make her Nan's chicken cutlets, after she taught her when she was 14?? Brit can't make them anymore either.I didn't realize that until now. Someday Brit is going to be in a similar boat - and now Nana wont see that. For that, I am grateful.
I want Sunday mornings with coffee and NY bagels delivered to us with the weekly gossip rags. I want to go get a manicure. I want to hear her laugh and say "Hey Bugs". I want to see my babies on her knee. I want her to be at my wedding, and know Im doing it for the right reasons this time. I want my little ones to know her. I want her to hug me in that too tight hug that just made all the bad stuff go away.I want days in the sun on Peak's. And her goofy hats. And the smell of tanning oil. I want happy hour on the deck where all the adults are together laughing and having snacks - and we get shirley temples, out of the way- but listening while we play Uno. I want afternoons in her waterbed during the summer, while we watch scary or John Hughes movies while she was at work. I want the Bronx Zoo and trips to her office. I want to call her at work and have her assistant put me right through, because no matter how busy she was, she was available.I want so so many things and so much more time to have them in.
 I want to tell her how much I admired her. How many times I made decisions based on what she would do - or what she would think of me.I want to thank her for my sister. I want to thank her for being my mother.
I want to remember the last time I told her I loved her.

I want to know I told her just how MUCH I loved her, when she could still understand...but I know I didn't.

I want to be ready for this, but I'm just not.

I want my mom.

Dec.1994, my bridal shower. My Moms.

Nana and the kids - Bayonne

Nana and Rylie

Nana and her boys - Matthew and Jacob 2002 or 2003

My last picture of  Nana. Kaylee and Reagan.  Summer 2011
I love you.

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